Research focus: Animal Welfare

During the past decade, education campaigns from major animal welfare and veterinary organisations warning of the health consequences of these body shapes have not resulted in the desired reduction in popularity of these high-risk breeds, and indeed some breeds such as the French bulldog have paradoxically increased in numbers in the face of strong messaging.

Along with the inherent disease risks associated with breeding dogs of this body shape, the high demand for popular brachycephalic breeds has led to unethical breeding practices and the illegal importation of puppies to fill this demand.

It has become increasingly clear that understanding the motivations and desires of both current and prospective brachycephalic dog owners is key to devising more targeted human behaviour change interventions in the future.
To date, RVC work in this area has uncovered a number of key findings, including:

  • Over half of owners of brachycephalic dogs with clinically significant airway disease do not recognise this as a problem for their dog, and instead consider it ‘normal for the breed’. This risks chronic under treatment of affected individuals, and breeding from affected animals, perpetuating airway disease in this population to future generations [1]
  • Owners of brachycephalic breeds are motivated to acquire their dog primarily based on their appearance, with important factors such as breed health or longevity having a lesser influence on their breed choice compared to the owners of non-brachycephalic breeds [2]. Other factors influencing the choice of brachycephalic breeds include a perception that they are good with children and good companions.

Work in this area continues at RVC, including exploring the dog-owner bond in brachycephalic dog owners and factors that influence it [4], and motivations to re-purchase the same breed and reasons for owner-owner recommendation of brachycephalic breeds [5].

The RVC collaborates with international experts in feline health and welfare to explore the motivations and preferences of brachycephalic cat owners [3,6].

Published Papers

  1. PACKER RMA; HENDRICKS A; BURN CC (2012) Do dog owners recognise clinical signs related to a conformational inherited disorder that is 'normal for the breed'? A potential constraint to improving canine welfare. Animal Welfare 21(S1): 81-93. 
  2. PACKER RMA; MURPHY D; FARNWORTH MJ (2017) Purchasing popular purebreds: Investigating the influence of breed-type on the pre-purchase attitudes and behaviour of dog owners. Animal Welfare 26: 191-201
  3. FARNWORTH MJ; PACKER RMA; SORDO L; CHEN R; CANEY SMA; GUNN-MOORE DA (2018) In the eye of the beholder: Owner preferences for variations in cats’ appearances with specific focus on skull morphology. Animals 8(2): 30

Papers under review

  1. PACKER RMA; O’NEILL DG; FLETCHER F; FARNWORTH, MJ (Under Review) Great expectations, inconvenient truths, and the paradoxes of the dog-owner relationship for owners of brachycephalic dogs.
  2. PACKER RMA; O’NEILL DG; FLETCHER F; FARNWORTH, MJ. (Under Review) Come for the looks, stay for the personality? A mixed methods study of owner repurchase desire and reasons for recommendation of brachycephalic dog breeds.
  3. PLITMAN, L; CERNA, P; FARNWORTH MJ; PACKER RMA; GUNN-MOORE, DA (Under Review). Owner motivations to purchase pedigree cats.

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